One Day More
After tomorrow, it will be over. We will have to deal with the aftermath, and that aftermath could be catastrophic, but the immediate phase will be over. It has been, and I say this without hyperbole, a horror show from beginning to end. I will tell you that I sit here, with one day more to go, profoundly depressed about the state of the country that I was born in and love still.
There is a significant chance (if, I think, substantially less than 50%) that Donald Trump will become the President of the United States. If that were to come to pass, I believe that the United States will never be the same. Here, I am with Andrew Sullivan in his apocalyptic piece from last week--I believe a President Trump means the institution of fascism in the United States, much along the lines of the model provided by Trump's buddy Vladimir Putin of Russia. If Trump were to win tomorrow, I believe the 2020 election will be much more like the 2012 Russian Presidential election than, say, the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, and the country will be fundamentally a different place. It will be a catastrophe for the United States, and for the world.
So, we are on the precipice of disaster, and we are weary from the disgusting, punishing slog that has been this endless campaign. But there are things to be learned here, and I offer two of them that I have been reflecting on in these last few days.
The first lesson for me is that there are no givens in this life. When I was a kid, and even into my twenties, I operated under the presumption that the basic rules of the world that I lived in would continue on indefinitely. Sure, there would be new technologies that changed things, but that was baked into the basic framework--I would live in a free, rich, diverse country that would be on top of the heap and leading the way. These things wouldn't change because that's just the way the universe was set up.
I think many, if not most, Americans felt that way. But, regardless, it was and is wrong, and deeply naive. There are no iron laws of history, no givens, no fixed states. The things I accepted as unchangeable realities were in place because people worked to create those realities, and consciously worked to maintain them. The United States was and is a free, rich, diverse country that is leading the way and on top of the heap because the people that comprise it have done the work and had the judgment to make it so, not because we have some sort of plot immunity from a screenwriter up above. We can choose to make those qualities go away, either through direct action or simple failure to maintain the norms in question.
If we do either of those things, those realities will disappear. The only thing preventing the United States from becoming Putin's Russia, or even Hitler's Germany, is our collective decision not to walk that path. We can do that, but there is no backstop if we decide to indulge in our bigotry and violence and hatred. This thing we have is far more fragile that we had previously believed, and we must treat it as such.
The second lesson has to do with how to live in the context of the first reality. It is easy to feel hopeless and irrelevant as these things swirl around you, as if you can do nothing, offer nothing, change nothing. I have definitely felt that way during the course of the last year. There is a kind of self-paralysis that comes from that.
There is, I think, only one solution to this state. While I am fortunate in many, many ways, I am not super-rich or powerful or influential or especially important. I cannot change the world on my own. All I can do is to state publicly and without fear what I believe, and to live in a manner consistent with what I believe and what I stand for. My words and actions may not change the world, but they will make sure I do not allow myself to be counted among the other side.
This election and all of the events that have spun off of it (and in particular the way it has impacted American Christianity) have grown in me a commitment to standing for what I believe to be right. Whereas in the past I was willing to listen to arguments that talked about not making waves, or working within the established structures for one reason or another, I'm not willing to do that anymore. If all I have is my voice and my presence to signal who I am and what I am about, then I will use that voice and presence in a manner consistent with what I believe. To do otherwise is a kind of self-censorship. I'm not willing to do that any more.
One last thing. If you are a citizen of the United States, and you have not already voted, then I ask you with every fiber of my being--please go vote for Hillary Clinton. She is far from an ideal candidate, but she is the only person right now that can save us from going down into the Darkness that Sullivan describes. And if you are not a citizen of the U.S., then I would ask you to pray for us in our hour of crisis.
One Day More.